Flying fat.

Two years ago, almost to the day, I flew Delta to and from Phoenix, Arizona to visit my parents.  On the flight back, I had a series of annoying events happen and though unrelated to my weight, I drew parallels for the customer service team at Delta in an e-mail I sent them.  Instead of the $250 voucher they gave a thin customer,  I was given a $100 voucher.  Flying fat is probably one of the most humiliating and uncomfortable experiences one can go through.  People glare at you, they ask for seat changes directly in front of you (sometimes with gestures directed at your rotund body), and when you arrive at your final destination your body is almost in pain from being cramped and tensed in order to not inconvenience anyone.  One would think that losing weight would alleviate all of this discomfort for myself and my fellow fatties, but it's not that simple.

My "civil liberties" are constantly invaded by people whose life choices insult or offend me.   Do you wear cologne?  I will almost asphyxiate because of the scent, needing to use my asthma inhaler repeatedly, and I will almost certainly get a migraine.  Do you smoke?  Do you have children with boundary issues?  Do you fall asleep easily?  Do you drool?  Do you snore?  Are you tall?  Do you recline your seat?  Do you use your computer?  Do you listen to media too loudly with earphones?  Do you sigh a lot?  Are you demanding?  Do you have to use the restroom often?  Do you keep the airplane window open, blinding your neighbors on daytime flights?  Do you take your shoes off and assault people with the stench of your feet?  Do you bring too much carry on luggage and slam luggage belonging to other people around in order to fit your precious cargo in...or is it really heavy?  Are you a chauvinist pig?  Do you hate gay people?  Do you get motion sickness?  There's a number of easily remedied annoyances on that list above, but no compensation is requested or delivered to people bothered by any of those things.  And that's what I'm saying.  Airplanes are comfortable FOR NO ONE, and I will cheer the day that the pressure is removed from fat people to fix that enduring reality.

Here's the e-mail I sent Delta.  I encourage fatties worldwide to start sending complaint stories (and posting them on the internet!) about every possible inconvenience levied at them while flying the "friendly" skies.  Enough is enough.

February 2008

To Whom it May Concern:

I traveled with Delta Airlines recently, per a suggestion from a retired Delta pilot and his spouse who is currently a flight attendant.  I had flown with Delta before and was inspired to fly again because of this recommendation and the outstanding price provided.  The first half of my journey was without a single problem.  However, the first leg of the second half of my trip left much to be desired.

I boarded flight 1570 on Tuesday February 19, 2008, leaving out of Phoenix at 1:56pm.  I was in zone 5 and boarded according to the gate host's instructions.  When I arrived on the flight, there was a pregnant mother managing her approximately two-year old daughter in my row, as well as a woman who had taken my seat to accommodate the mother and child.  I was informed by the pregnant woman that she had requested an adjustment to her seat to accommodate her child and so I proceeded to the back of the plane to wait for further instructions from the flight attendants.  While waiting, I witnessed incredibly poor leadership on behalf of the flight attendant Andrea while searching for the parents of a child who was hiding in one of the rows and the increasing frustration of customers waiting to get to their seats.  The flight attendants attempted to communicate with Andrea using the overhead speakers, engaging passengers in a frustrating situation unnecessarily.

When the flight was seated, I asked Andrea where I should sit and she said that she was sorry but only center seats were available at that time.  As a consolation, she provided me with a complimentary set of headphones ($2) and an offer for an alcoholic beverage courtesy of the airline ($5).  I felt that the offer for an alcoholic beverage was incredibly unprofessional and inappropriate, given that I could have been underage or unable to consume alcoholic beverages.  Furthermore, she shoved the headphones into my hand and pushed me to my seat.  When I was left to choose the most desirable center seat, she left me alone to communicate my need to sit between already buckled-in customers, to their annoyance as well as mine.  When I was situated, uncomfortably as I had originally chosen an aisle seat, my comfort was ignored for the duration of the flight.

When the flight landed, I had to wait until the plane deboarded in order to retrieve my baggage from an overhead bin at the back of the plane.  The flight attendants were saying goodbye to the passengers or milling about at the back of the plane, making it very difficult for me to access the bag.  There were two families, unsupervised by the flight staff, allowing their children to run around while I attempted to exit the plane.  I deboarded after 30 minutes of post-landing waiting.

I proceeded to my second leg's gate where I attempted to call the Delta customer service number.  I was told by the gentleman on the line that he was unable to take complaints over the phone and that I would have to e-mail.  As a passenger on a flight in an airport, I found it an unreasonable suggestion.  I proceeded to the booking phones at the end of the hallway and spoke to a woman who told me the best thing to do was to call the number I called previously.  I called the 1-800 number again and was given the long distance number by a gentleman named Shane.  I called and was told that the office was closed.  I asked at my gate if the gate host could provide me with any help or information about who to call, and she was unable to help me beyond printing out a mailing address.  She was also flustered and was more interested in helping first class and business class passengers tend to their needs than helping me with my issue.

Recently, the news reported ( that Delta airlines provided a $250 consolation to a customer who complained about having to sit next to an overweight passenger.  As someone who is overweight and makes every accommodation in order to make the "thin" passengers comfortable, I bristled at my experience.  I can understand the logic of reassigning passengers in order to make them more comfortable, but having the flight attendants show more concern for pregnant women who don't bother to purchase a ticket for their of-age child yet contribute to the fatphobia in this society by giving thin people money for their inconvenience, or insisting that fat people purchase an additional ticket because of their size, stinks of discrimination and illegalities to me.

I would think that it would be in Delta's best interest to address these issues with consistency and fairness.  If a thin person is consoled financially for their discomfort and annoyance because of a fat person, shouldn't any person be awarded a similar token of gratitude for being flexible and generous for a passenger who has clearly violated stated or implied policies/laws for airline travel?  I should think it the least you can do.

I look forward to your response.  I do feel that the headphones I received, and the offer for an alcoholic beverage, were a price too small to pay for my patience in this matter.  Couple that with severely lacking customer service in one of your major hubs and on your toll free phone number, I would say that Delta has a great deal of work to do in order to be considered a great contributor to fantastic airline service.

Fatty McFatFat*

*real name redacted for privacy purposes.  Heehee.
Photo courtesy

1 comment:

  1. Being overweight myself (and also a minor traveling cross-country all alone) this was one of my biggest concerns. I'm flying Southwest, and though I didn't have a problem on the two flights out here, I did have to put the arm rest up because the seats are just ridiculously small--so small that I saw some of the "thin" passengers frequently adjusting themselves due to seat size and closeness to the person next to them. I'm flying back home to Pittsburgh, PA from Portland, OR tomorrow, which is a 4 hour (more than likely extremely crowded) flight to Chicago, an hour layover, and then a 2 hour flight to Pittsburgh. My concern is that Southwest Airlines have been known to come up to the overweight passengers and ask them to put their armrest down. If the passenger cannot do this comfortably, they will be asked to leave the plane if it's full, or to buy another ticket immediately. Though they can't kick me off of the plane because I am a minor, I'm horrified by the thought of being so humiliated in front of so many people. i find it very unreasonable and unfair that being overweight is the only punishable act. I've been next to people that were horribly sick--sniffling, sneezing, coughing all over the place--I've had to deal with the 6 1/2 foot tall man in front of me who, due to the airline's greedy decision to put the seats so close together leaving little leg space, had to recline his chair into my lap, I've dealt with the baby, the guy who bathes maybe once a decade, the people who spread their legs so far that I'm squished in my seat, the pregnant woman who has to get up and go to the bathroom every five minutes. What's my compensation for that? And why should I have to be worried about getting kicked off of a plane because I'm "too fat to fly" according to some "thin-loving" company? I do understand that it can be uncomfortable for someone to sit next to a pear-shaped person, and for that I am truly sorry, but what can I honestly do about that? If it was so easy to just lose weight, don't you think I would have just done that in the first place?
    Fatties have to fly, too, so sorry to the masses that have to deal with our existence, but we were obviously put on this planet to punish you.

    If anything weight-related comes up on the flight, I will call every person I can until something is done because this kind of discrimination just isn't right.


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